Short, Fat, and Stylish: A Fashion Guide for Plus-Size Petite Women
Petite-Plus: The Overlooked Size
There seems to be a belief that "petite" is synonymous with "elfin," that petite women are tiny, graceful creatures who float delicately on a sea of petals and have waists the size of an average woman's neck. Not true. While some such women do exist, there are just as many (if not more) who are petite-plus: at least average in width and less-than-average in height.
While the media is delighted to fuss over the existence of so-called plus-size models, the plight of the short is totally ignored. Worried you don't get to see models who are a normal size? Forget about width, that's bad enough. Let me tell you about height.
A "short" model is 5' 9". Honestly. That's at least 8 inches taller than a petite-sized woman, and those extra inches alter the way any outfit looks, not a little but completely. Have you ever tried on a wedding dress and found yourself standing on a small dais which allows the dress, which is too long, to fall to the floor? I bet you looked great, but of course that's not how you would look if you wore that dress on your wedding day because the ratio of width to height would be completely different with two feet on the floor.
What our culture perceives as elegant is a silhouette where the height is several times the width. Take a look at any fashion illustration you've ever seen. Take a look at a Barbie doll, where the length of the leg is way above normal in comparison to the other measurements. To achieve that elegant ratio of width to height, short women need to use every visual illusion they can.
Monochromatic Colors and Vertical Lines
The longer the single blocks of color are, the taller you will appear. A blouse and pants for example will make you look short unless...
1. The blouse is the same color as the pants, and
2. There is no obvious horizontal line between them.
The ideal outfit for the plus-size petite woman is mostly one color, with a contrast at the narrowest point (usually the neck). The contrasting splash of color at the neck will allow the eye to follow a long, unbroken monochromatic line from feet to neck. This means that maxi skirts and dresses have the potential to make you look slimmer than conventional skirts will. Jackets can provide a great contrast and look good over matching blouse and pants (especially when left open to show the blouse which becomes, visually, a narrow strip of lighter colored fabric) but if they don't match the pants, the lower edge will form a horizontal line, breaking the line and spoiling the illusion of height.
One solution is to wear pants, top, and jacket all to match, or use cleverly-shaped jackets like waterfall jackets which hang in soft folds without one solid horizontal border.
Dresses for Plus-Size Petites
When it comes to evening wear, the shorter woman can shine in a full-length gown, but even here the illusion can be improved by the use of the right neckline. A V neck creates an illusion of length and can be very flattering, whereas a square neck emphasizes width and is unlikely to look as good. A high neck can allow a longer visual line, as well, although a little skin at the neckline always looks good, too.
When choosing a dress, remember that solid colors and vertical lines will work with your shape. If you've got the legs for it, don't be afraid of a slit at the side of the dress (which offers a vertical line of skin, after all).
Plus-Size Petite Sleepwear
Nightgowns, pajamas, and robes are just as important—there is no better way to end the day than in a beautiful, sensual silk nightgown that fits, but finding one is often difficult for small women who know that "full length" is a relative term. The best solution is to either use a made-to-measure service (shop at a store that will pre-tailor items to fit you) or alter the item yourself. If you choose the latter, remember that designs with a lace edge are easy to tailor; by simply cutting off the lace, you'll be able to reduce the nightgown to the right length. "Short" nightgowns tend to fall to the knee on petite women, so it is important to look carefully at the design. If its primary purpose is to show off your legs, forget it and go for something designed to show off your face or shoulders instead.
Although short, plus-size women are not generally used as models in any part of the fashion industry, this doesn't mean they can't look good. Simply by paying attention to the creation of the right visual illusion, you can look just as good as anyone else, however tall you are.